Scion Xa & Xb

For Toyota dealers, trying to attract America’s hip and happening sixteen-to-twenty-four-year-old crowd must feel like fishing without bait. The automaker may be a big fish among family sedans and sport-utility vehicles, but when it comes to cars that turn on Net-savvy subthirties, no one’s biting.

The Echo? We don’t think so. The Matrix? Close but not quite. But with the fast-approaching arrival of the Scion brand, Toyota will roll out two new vehicles whose mission is to go boldly where no small Toyota has been before—or at least not in a very long time.

At last year’s New York auto show, Toyota presented the Scion bbX, a boxy, multipurpose concept that wasn’t so much a car as it was a living room on wheels. In Japan, Toyota has been selling basically the same device as the Xb (for “Black Box”) since early 2000. In the land where box design is king, the Xb has been a big success for the company.

A cutesy, wagon-meets-SUV crossover will be the second Scion model, so we hear. Toyota launched this one in Japan earlier this year, duXbing it the Xa. The name—we earnestly hope—will change for America, but the rest of the package catches the eye in the way an Echo never will. The Xa has a compact five-door body with pumped-up arches and a hint of fashionable all-wheel-drive ability.

While the Xa simply looks like fun, the Xb has the kind of anarchic anti-design you’ll likely either love or hate. Toyota is not the first to do the box-as-car thing. Honda already has the Element, but it’s significantly bigger than the Xb, which is actually some fourteen inches shorter than an Echo (although it doesn’t look it).

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